The UK foot-and-mouth outbreak is under control, report researchers in a Brief Communication (Nature, Vol. 411, No. 6835, 17 May 2001). But they warn that small variations in the control strategy could still have a large impact on the epidemic’s final size and duration. Particularly devastating, say Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and colleagues, would be if the disease were to spread to previously unaffected regions.
Woolhouse and colleagues used data from the UK Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to estimate the ‘case-reproduction ratio’, which represents the average number of farms that become infected as a result of an outbreak on a single farm. If this is less than one, the outbreak can be said to be under control. They plot the course of foot-and-mouth from its discovery on 20 February; it took until late March, after the speed of detection improved and after intensification of the culling effort, for the ratio to fall below one.
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